The Kyrgyz Republic has a parliamentary form of government designed to limit presidential power and enhance the role of parliament and the prime minister. During presidential elections in October 2017, the nation elected former prime minister and member of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan, Sooronbai Jeenbekov, to succeed outgoing President Almazbek Atambaev. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) described the elections as competitive and well administered, but it noted room for improvement in the legal framework to prevent misuse of public resources in election campaigns and to effectively deter vote buying.
Civilian authorities at times did not maintain effective control over the security forces.
Human rights issues included law enforcement and security services officers’ use of torture and arbitrary arrest; site blocking and criminal libel in practice; pervasive corruption; human trafficking, including forced labor; attacks and other bias-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons and members of ethnic minority groups; violence against women and forced marriage; and child labor.
While the government took steps to investigate and prosecute or punish officials known to have committed human rights abuses, especially those involved in corrupt activities, official impunity remained a problem.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and citizens generally were free to exercise these rights. NGO leaders and media rights advocates acknowledged a more relaxed press environment under the Jeenbekov administration, noting a clear drop in libel lawsuits against independent media outlets and the withdrawal of existing cases launched under the previous administration. Self-censorship continued to be prevalent, and pressure reportedly existed from editors and political figures to bias reporting.
Freedom of Expression: As in earlier years, some journalists reported intimidation related to coverage of sensitive topics, such as interethnic relations, “religious extremism,” or the rise of nationalism. The trend was particularly salient against Uzbek-language media outlets. Some journalists were prosecuted or felt threatened for reporting critically on public figures.
Multiple civil society groups noted an increase in the application of Article 299 of the criminal code on the “incitement of interethnic, racial, religious, and interregional hatred.” Observers stated that in some cases authorities broadly interpreted Article 299 to sanction speech, which tended to affect ethnic minorities and human rights defenders. HRW reported that the majority of prosecutions under Article 299 occurred in the south and targeted ethnic Uzbeks. According to NGOs, 98 percent of arrests under Article 299 resulted in convictions. Civil society organizations called the process to confirm violations of Article 299 arbitrary, politicized, and unprofessional. In November 2017 former opposition presidential candidate Omurbek Babanov faced charges for allegedly violating Article 299 during one of his campaign rally speeches (see section 3, Elections and Political Participation).
Press and Media Freedom: In recent years there were attempts to proscribe independent media from operating freely in the country. Tight government controls over news content on state television were widely acknowledged. Media rights advocates noted increasing pressure on media outlets in advance of the October 2017 presidential elections. Such pressure included civil and criminal lawsuits filed against independent media and journalists in connection with their reporting.
While there was a small degree of foreign ownership of media through local partners, in June 2017 the president signed amendments to the law on mass media that prohibit a foreign entity from forming a media outlet and limit foreign ownership of television stations. Nonetheless, through local partners Russian-language television stations dominated coverage and local ratings. A number of Russia-based media outlets operated freely in the country, and the government treated them as domestic media.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: As in previous years, journalists and NGO leaders alleged some news outlets instructed their reporters not to report critically on certain politicians or government officials. The sources also reported some news outlets received requests from offices of the government to report in a particular way or to ignore specific news stories.
The government continued to block internet users from accessing Fergananews.com in connection to a June 2017 decision by a Bishkek court. NGO leaders and media sources reported that state-owned broadcasters continued under pressure to transmit stories promoting government policies and initiatives and develop narratives critical of NGOs, opposition figures, and civil society activists.
Libel/Slander Laws: While libel is not a criminal offense except in narrowly prescribed instances, NGO leaders described the False Accusations Amendments, passed in 2014, as a practical “recriminalizing of libel.” Journalists noted the law exposed media to libel suits in civil courts that could bankrupt the outlets or journalists in their defense attempts. In 2015 the Constitutional Chamber narrowed the reach of the law, holding that henceforth it would apply only in cases of knowingly making false statements in a police report but not to statements in media, although subsequent decisions appear to contradict that ruling. While slander and libel are not criminal offenses, civil lawsuits can result in defendants paying compensation for moral harm, which the law does not limit in size. Observers stated that courts arbitrarily ruled on the amount of compensation and that failure to pay compensation could serve as a basis for criminal prosecution.
From March through April 2017, the PGO filed five civil lawsuits against individuals and media entities for “offending the honor and dignity” of the president. In March a defendant in one of the suits, journalist Naryn Ayip, published retractions of three articles.
Outstanding defamation cases from the previous year were largely resolved by the former and current presidents. In May former president Almazbek Atambaev voluntarily withdrew material claims awarded in defamation cases against former member of parliament Cholpon Jakupova, and Zanoza Media (now called Kaktus.Media) cofounders, Dina Maslova and Naryn Aiyp. Prior to Atambaev’s decision, some of those defendants had already complied with the 2017 Supreme Court ruling that required the payment of approximately 29.5 million som ($430,000) in fines to former president Atambaev for “moral compensation.”
In February President Jeenbekov cancelled a five million som ($73,000) judgment against online news outlet 24.kg for “moral damages.” In January, 24.kg published a retraction and an apology to Jeenbekov on its news site. In September 2017 then presidential candidate Jeenbekov had sued 24.kg and codefendant and former deputy Kabay Karabekov for the publication of an article that alleged the Jeenbekov brothers had close ties with radical Arab organizations. A Bishkek court in October 2017 ruled in Jeenbekov’s favor and awarded him a 10 million som ($146,000) judgment, assessed equally against the defendants. In April President Jeenbekov withdrew his claim after Karabekov issued a formal apology.
The Adilet Legal Clinic reported that the organization defended journalists and media outlets charged with libel and slander, and members of media regularly feared the threat of lawsuits.
The government generally allowed access to the internet, including social media sites, and there were no public credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. There were no reports during the year that the government blocked websites spreading “extremist” and terrorist materials without a court order. Media reported that in August, courts blocked five social media accounts and eight online media channels, due to extremist content.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, 38 percent of the population used the internet penetration rate in 2017.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom. Institutions providing advanced religious education must follow strict reporting policies, but they reported no restrictions on academic freedom.
The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
The constitution provides for this right, and the government generally respected it. Organizers and participants are responsible for notifying authorities of planned assemblies, but the constitution prohibits authorities from banning or restricting peaceful assemblies, even in the absence of prior notification. Local authorities, however, have the right to demand an end to a public action and, in the event of noncompliance, are empowered to take measures to end assemblies.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected it. NGOs, labor unions, political parties, and cultural associations must register with the Ministry of Justice. NGOs are required to have at least three members and all other organizations at least 10 members. The Ministry of Justice did not refuse to register any domestic NGOs. The law prohibits foreign-funded political parties and NGOs, including their representative offices and branches, from pursuing political goals.
The government continued to maintain bans on 21 “religiously oriented” groups it considered to be extremist, including al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkistan, the Kurdish People’s Congress, the Organization for the Liberation of Eastern Turkistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Union of Islamic Jihad, the Islamic Party of Turkistan, the Unification (Mun San Men) Church, Takfir Jihadist, Jaysh al-Mahdi, Jund al-Khilafah, Ansarullah At-Takfir Val Hidjra, Akromiya, ISIS, Djabhat An Nusra, Katibat al-Imam al-Buhari, Jannat Oshiqlari, Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, and Yakyn Incar. Authorities also continued the ban on all materials or activities connected to A. A. Tihomirov, also known as Said Buryatsky.
As in recent years, numerous human rights activists reported continued arrests and prosecution of persons accused of possessing and distributing Hizb ut-Tahrir literature (see section 1.d.). Most arrests of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir members occurred in the southern part of the country and involved ethnic Uzbeks. The government charged the majority of those arrested with possession of illegal religious material. In some cases NGOs alleged police planted Hizb ut-Tahrir literature as evidence against those arrested.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The law on internal migration provides for freedom of movement. The government generally respected this right, and citizens usually were able to move within the country with ease. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other organizations to provide some protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
A 2016 amendment to the law on combating terrorism and extremism revokes citizenship of anyone convicted of terrorist and extremist activities. The law was not used during the year.
Foreign Travel: The law on migration prohibits travel abroad by citizens who have or had access to information classified as state secrets until the information is declassified.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The law on refugees includes nondiscrimination provisions covering persons who were not refugees when they left their country of origin and extends the validity of documents until a final decision on status is determined by a court.
Employment: UN-mandated refugees who lacked official status in the country do not have legal permission to work, access to medical services, or the right to receive identity documents. They were therefore susceptible to exploitation by employers paying substandard wages, not providing benefits, and not complying with labor regulations. They could not file grievances with authorities. Refugees with official status in the country have legal permission to work.
Access to Basic Services: UN-mandated refugees and asylum seekers who lacked official status were ineligible to receive state-sponsored social benefits. Refugees with official status in the country have access to basic services.
UNHCR officials stated the country’s stateless persons fell into several categories. As of July, 1,189 individuals were listed as stateless, a significant decrease from the approximately 13,431 stateless individuals identified in the country since 2014. Of this number, 11,636 stateless individuals either confirmed or acquired citizenship or obtained status of a stateless person due in large part to a countrywide registration and documentation campaign conducted jointly by UNHCR, the government, and nongovernmental partners. As of July there were an estimated 1,600 Uzbek women who married Kyrgyz citizens but never received Kyrgyz citizenship (many such women allowed their Uzbek passports to expire, and regulations obstructed their efforts to gain Kyrgyz citizenship). Other categories included Roma, individuals with expired Soviet documents, children born to one or both parents who were stateless, and children of migrant workers who renounced their Kyrgyz citizenship in the hope of becoming Russian citizens. The government denied access to social benefits and official work documents to stateless persons, who lacked sufficient legal standing to challenge exploitative labor conditions in court. The State Registration Service maintained its database of stateless persons based only on those who contacted it.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
While the law provides criminal penalties for public officials convicted of corruption, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. According to Transparency International, official corruption cases appeared to be selectively investigated and prosecuted. The payment of bribes to avoid investigation or prosecution was a major problem at all levels of law enforcement. Law enforcement officers, particularly in the southern part of the country, frequently employed arbitrary arrest, torture, and the threat of criminal prosecution as a means of extorting cash payments from citizens (see section 1.d.).
Corruption: The only government body formally empowered to investigate corruption was the anticorruption branch of the GKNB. It is not an independent government entity, and its budget remained within the operating budget of the GKNB. The agency’s cooperation with civil society was limited. The State Service to Combat Economic Crimes, also known as the Financial Police, investigates economic crimes, which sometimes includes corruption-related crimes.
In January parliament and the GKNB launched separate investigations into the renovation of the Bishkek Combined Heating and Power Plant. As a result of the GKNB investigation, authorities arrested several high-profile political figures who were awaiting trial, including two former prime ministers, the mayor of Bishkek, and the chief of the State Customs Service. The case continued at the end of the year. In May the State Service to Combat Economic Crimes halted the criminal case against independent journalist Elnura Alkanova, who was initially charged in February with “illegally obtaining information” and “disclosing bank secrets,” after publishing investigative reports in 2017 on the allegedly corrupt sale of government property near Bishkek.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires all public officials to publish their income and assets. The State Personnel Service is responsible for making this information public. Officials who do not disclose required information may be dismissed from office, although this punishment was not regularly enforced.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Numerous domestic and international human rights organizations operated actively in the country, although government officials at times were uncooperative and unresponsive to their views.
Government actions at times appeared to impede the ability of NGOs to operate freely.
The United Nations or Other International Bodies: The government permitted visits by representatives of the United Nations and other organizations in connection with the investigation of abuses or monitoring of human rights problems in the country, including those of the OSCE, ICRC, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and International Organization for Migration. The government restricted visits to Azimjon Askarov but otherwise provided international bodies largely unfettered access to civil society activists, detention facilities and detainees, and government officials.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The Office of the Ombudsman acted as an independent advocate for human rights on behalf of private citizens and NGOs and had the authority to recommend cases for court review. Observers noted the atmosphere of impunity surrounding the security forces and their ability to act independently against citizens limited the number and type of complaints submitted to the Ombudsman’s Office.
Although the Ombudsman’s Office exists in part to receive complaints of human rights abuses and pass the complaints to relevant agencies for investigation, both domestic and international observers questioned the office’s efficiency and political independence. In June Ombudsman Kubat Otorbaev resigned. While Otorbaev said his resignation was not due to outside pressure, parliamentarians at times criticized his work and raised the possibility of his early dismissal. On September 26, Tokon Mamytov, a former GKNB officer, was appointed to the post of ombudsman, a decision that human rights organizations criticized.
Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape, including spousal rape, is illegal, but as in previous years, the government failed to enforce the law effectively, and rape cases were underreported. Penalties for conviction of sexual assault range from three to eight years’ imprisonment. Prosecutors rarely brought rape cases to court. Police generally regarded spousal rape as an administrative, rather than a criminal, offense.
While the law specifically prohibits domestic violence and spousal abuse, violence against women and girls remained a significant yet underreported problem. Penalties for domestic violence convictions range from fines to 15 years’ imprisonment, the latter if abuse resulted in death. In 2015 HRW catalogued a range of violent forms of domestic violence and found that the government did not sufficiently investigate and prosecute cases, provide services and support for survivors, pursue protection, or penalize perpetrators. In the small number of reported cases reviewed by courts over recent years, many charges were considered administrative offenses rather than crimes, thus carrying a lesser punishment.
A 2017 domestic violence law streamlined procedures for the issuance of protective orders and increased protections for the victims of domestic violence. The law requires police to file cases of domestic violence and recognizes economic violence as a form of abuse in addition to physical and psychological abuse. The law also entitles witnesses to report on abuses and requires police to act on reports filed by witnesses.
Many crimes against women went unreported due to psychological pressure, economic dependence, cultural traditions, fear of stigma, and apathy among law enforcement officers. There were also reports of spouses retaliating against women who reported abuse. The government provided offices to the Sezim Shelter for victims of domestic abuse and paid its expenses.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Although prohibited by law, the practice of kidnapping women and girls for forced marriage continued. In 2017 the OSCE estimated that each year 12,000 young women were kidnapped into forced marriages and 20 percent were raped in the process. Kidnapped brides were more likely to be victims of domestic abuse and were limited in their pursuit of education and employment. The negative effect of the practice extended to children of kidnapped brides. Observers reported there was a greater frequency of early marriage, polygamy, and bride kidnapping in connection with unregistered religious marriages. This also affected data availability on such marriages.
Some victims of bride kidnapping went to the local police to obtain protective orders, but authorities often poorly enforced such orders. In May, following an attempt by Mars Bodosev to kidnap 20-year-old Burulai Turdaaly kyzy, police held both Bodosev and Turdaaly kyzy in the same holding cell in a police station. While awaiting further processing, Bodosev stabbed Turdaaly kyzy to death. Following the killing, the Ministry of Internal Affairs punished 23 police officers for neglect. On December 10, a Bishkek court found Bodoshev guilty of killing Turdaaly kyzy and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Akmet Seiitov, who assisted Bodoshev in the kidnapping, was sentenced to seven years in prison. Although in 2013 the government strengthened the penalty for conviction of bride kidnapping to a maximum of 10 years in prison, NGOs continued to report no increase in the reporting and rare prosecution of the crime.
Sexual Harassment: Media reported on widespread sexual harassment in the workplace and on public transportation. The law prohibits physical sexual assault but not verbal sexual harassment.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization.
Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women and men, but due to poor enforcement of the law, discrimination against women persisted.
As in previous years, data from NGOs working on women’s issues indicated women were less healthy, more abused, less able to work outside the home, and less able than men to determine independently the disposition of their earnings.
Birth Registration: Although the law provides that every child born in the country has the right to receive a birth certificate, local registration, and citizenship, some children were stateless (see section 2.d.). Children of migrant parents who moved to and acquired citizenship of another country had to prove both of their parents were Kyrgyz citizens to acquire Kyrgyz citizenship.
Education: The law provides for compulsory and free education for the first nine years of schooling or until age 14 or 15. Secondary education is free and universal until age 17. The government did not provide free basic education to all students, and the system of residence registration restricted access to social services, including education for children who were refugees, migrants, or noncitizens. Families of children in public school often paid burdensome and illegal administrative fees.
Child Abuse: According to NGO and UN reports, child abuse, including beatings, child labor, and commercial sexual exploitation of boys and girls continued to occur.
Early and Forced Marriage: Children ages 16 and 17 may legally marry with the consent of local authorities, but the law prohibits civil marriages before age 16 under all circumstances. Although illegal, the practice of bride kidnapping continued (see section 6, Women). The kidnapping of underage brides remained underreported.
In 2018 UNICEF estimated that 12.7 percent of married women between the ages of 20 and 49 married before age 18. A 2015 HRW report on domestic abuse found inadequate government attention focused on addressing bride kidnapping or other forms of early and forced marriage. A 2016 law criminalizes religious marriages involving minors. No prosecutions were filed.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the sale of children, child trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography, as well as other sexual crimes against children. The law criminalizes the sale of persons, forced prostitution, and provides penalties for conviction of up to 15 years in prison if the victim is a child. The law also makes it a crime to involve someone in prostitution by violence or the threat of violence, blackmail, destroying or damaging property, or fraud.
The criminal code prohibits the distribution of child pornography and the possession of child pornography with the intent to distribute. The law does not specifically define child pornography, and the criminal code does not fully criminalize computer-related use, access to child pornography online, or simple possession of child pornography.
According to local observers, children under age 18 were involved in prostitution. According to UNICEF, children under age 18 in Bishkek were involved in prostitution. Although precise figures were not known, police stated that typical cases of child prostitution involved young girls from rural areas who relocated to Bishkek for educational opportunities or to flee from an abusive family environment. Once in the capital, they entered the sex trade due to financial pressures. There were allegations of law enforcement officials’ complicity in human trafficking; police officers allegedly threatened, extorted, and raped child sex-trafficking victims. The government reportedly did not investigate allegations of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. Under the criminal code, it is illegal for persons ages 18 and older to have sexual relations with someone under the age of 16.
Displaced Children: As in previous years, there were numerous reports of child abandonment due to parents’ lack of resources, and large numbers of children lived in institutions, foster care, or on the streets. Approximately 80 percent of street children were internal migrants. Street children had difficulty accessing educational and medical services. Police detained street children and sent them home if an address was known or to a rehabilitation center or orphanage.
Institutionalized Children: State orphanages and foster homes lacked resources and often were unable to provide proper care. This sometimes resulted in the transfer of older children to mental health-care facilities even when they did not exhibit mental health problems. In August the Office of the Ombudsman called for the closure of the country’s sole children’s detention center. As of October, the detention center had not been closed. The ombudsman stated that the center did not respect the right of juvenile detainees to education and medical services.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data.html.
The Jewish population in the country was approximately 460. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, requires access to public transportation and parking, authorizes subsidies to make mass media available to persons with hearing or vision disabilities, and provides free plots of land for the construction of a home. The government generally did not ensure proper implementation of the law, and discrimination persisted. In addition, persons with disabilities often had difficulty finding employment due to negative societal attitudes and high unemployment among the general population.
A lack of government resources made it difficult for persons with disabilities to receive adequate education. Although children with disabilities have the right to an education, the Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities stated schools often denied them entry. The government funded programs to provide school supplies and textbooks to children with mental or physical disabilities, and the Association of Parents of Children with Disabilities reported efforts by the Ministry of Education and Science to improve the situation by promoting inclusive education for persons with disabilities.
According to UNICEF, one-third of children with disabilities were institutionalized. As in previous years, conditions at psychiatric hospitals were substandard, stemming largely from inadequate funding. The government did not adequately provide for basic needs, such as food, water, clothing, heating, and health care, and facilities were often overcrowded.
Authorities usually placed children with mental disabilities in psychiatric hospitals rather than integrating them with other children. Other residents were also committed involuntarily, including children without mental disabilities who were too old to remain in orphanages.
The PGO is responsible for protecting the rights of psychiatric patients and persons with disabilities. According to local NGO lawyers, members of the PGO had no training and little knowledge of the protection of these rights and were ineffective in assisting citizens with disabilities. Most judges lacked the experience and training to make determinations as to whether it was appropriate to mandate committing persons to psychiatric hospitals, and authorities institutionalized individuals against their will.
Observers noted authorities had not implemented a 2008 law requiring employers to fulfill special hiring quotas for persons with disabilities (approximately 5 percent of work positions).
Tensions between ethnic Uzbeks–who comprised nearly 15 percent of the population–and ethnic Kyrgyz remained problematic, particularly in Southern Osh Oblast where Uzbeks make up almost one-half the population. Discrimination against ethnic Uzbeks in business and government, as well as harassment and reported arbitrary arrests, illustrated these tensions. Ethnic Uzbeks reported that large public works and road construction projects in predominantly Uzbek areas, often undertaken without public consultation, interfered with neighborhoods and destroyed homes. Additionally, according to HRW, a 2016 Supreme Court study found that a majority of suspects prosecuted for terrorism and extremism, including under Article 299, were ethnic Uzbeks from the south.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
LGBTI persons whose sexual orientation or gender identity was publicly known risked physical and verbal abuse, possible loss of employment, and unwanted attention from police and other authorities. Inmates and officials often openly victimized incarcerated gay men. Forced marriages of lesbians and bisexual women to men also occurred. The Labrys Public Foundation noted the continued practice of “corrective rape” of lesbians to “cure” their homosexuality.
Members of the LGBTI community continued to report attempts to forcibly “out” gays, lesbians and transgender persons on social media. Specifically, secretly recorded videos of LGBTI wedding ceremony participants and their guests were posted on social media pages, drawing unwanted attention and harassment.
In 2014 HRW released a report based on interviews with 40 LGBTI persons chronicling instances of official extortion, beatings, and sexual assault. The report described in detail how police patrolling parks and bars frequented by gay men would threaten them with violence and arrest or threaten to reveal their homosexuality to their families if they did not pay bribes. These practices, according to representatives of the LGBTI community, continued during the year. NGO leaders in the southern part of the country reported an even greater threat. During the year members of the LGBTI community have reported that authorities regularly monitored chatrooms and dating sites in an effort to punish and extort those who were seeking out homosexual sex through online venues.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
While the law protects against discrimination and stigmatization of persons with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS, persons with HIV continued to encounter high levels of stigma and discrimination. According to 2015 Stigma Index data, HIV-positive persons felt fear or experienced verbal abuse, harassment, and threats, with some reporting incidents of physical abuse and assault. Loss of employment and lack of access to housing were reported due to social stigma of HIV/AIDS status. A recent study conducted by Kyrgyz Indigo, an LGBTI advocacy organization, found that more than 70 percent of gay and bisexual men were unaware of their HIV status.